Are we going through the South Asian Complex?

Published: August 9, 2014
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As Pakistanis, we have a tendency to overlook events that are not part of our political scenario.

When Israel resumed its onslaught on the people of Gaza, social networking sites became a medium of protests from around the world. But in Pakistan, there were mixed reactions. Some were quite exasperating, to be honest. Despite hearing the news about Israeli jets hovering over Gaza like death angels, carrying out experimental strikes on local residents, some Pakistanis have been quite thick-skinned.

There were those who disregarded the issue as an international dispute, while others felt that Semitism is the root cause of the conflict, although both Arabs and Jews are Semites. But the most juvenile counter arguments I found were the ones which revolved around Pakistan’s internal problems – how can the people of a factitious state make an external dispute their primary concern?

As South Asians, and because Pakistan is geographically detached from the Arab World, we have a tendency to overlook events that are not part of our political scenario. Although we are all inhabitants of the same continent, we tend to acknowledge affairs that are purely territorial; anything beyond our border is considered extraneous. In these past 13 years, Pakistan has disassociated itself from the rest of the world, which has somehow given birth to a lot of isolationists. Since Israel started to act as an uncontrollable reaper, ruthlessly slaying Palestinians in the name of ‘self-defence’, there was a sudden eruption of pro-Palestine activism in Pakistan. However, Pakistanis sometimes equate this vigorous advocacy with hypocrisy; we disconnect ourselves from the harsh realities of our own country. Even though Pakistani intellects and media personnel have targeted every adversity that befell us, our slight diversion from domestic conflicts makes us ‘insincere’. This should not be the case.

No doubt, Pakistan has been a witness to some of the most heart wrenching tragedies in its almost 68 years of history, but during this time period, Palestinians have been reminded by Israel that they are victims of uninterrupted segregation and persecution. Pakistanis, on the other hand, do not have armed tanks rolling on their streets, targeting areas with imprecision nor do they have soldiers thumping on their doors, relentlessly dragging out individuals from each family. Pakistan is a sovereign nation, with an established leadership.

In case of Palestine, Gaza is a gladiator’s arena with Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, acting as Caesar. There is one armed resistance in the Gaza strip against Israel’s foreign funded artillery; hence it is a disproportionate war. Most of the Israeli offensives against the Palestinian Arabs have been based on biblical events, meaning that the cleansing of the Holy Land from non-Jews, by Israelis as an atonement of their previous sins is mandatory, which is a clear indication that religious fanaticism exists in both worlds. Unlike the Palestinians who have to wake up every morning to face an apartheid wall, we Pakistanis are responsible for most of the misfortunes that have betided us.

We believe that being non-Arabs, we should completely abstain from intervening in foreign affairs. Any issue that is proximate to the South Asian identity should be addressed, the rest is not of our worries. Some feel that the animosity between Israel and Palestine should not cloud our judgment regarding the Jewish state, and Pakistan should remove the travel ban on Israel. Even if Pakistan clears away the restrictions, it is not like Israel will be standing on the gates with open arms, ready to embrace us. You will have to go through hours of interrogation just to get a glimpse of Jerusalem.

We only adhere to our Indo-Persian ethnicity, when it comes to the international community.  But one does not think twice before taking out the family scrolls, making proclamations of their linkage with the early Arabs. Yes, Pakistanis have their nostalgic moments when they assume that they are genetically related to the mighty Bedouin tribes of Arabia.

From Israel to Iraq, the Middle East is a slaughter house. However, statistically speaking, more people have died in Syria’s civil war than in Palestine. And if we compare the two, there has been less hype about Bashar al-Assad’s killing spree in the country, which should have received equal condemnation. The extensive bloodshed in Syria and Gaza has created an atmosphere of bemusement. The grotesque images of unidentified mutilated bodies emerging from both sides are disorientating.

But Palestinians have been singled out, while Syrians still have an option to flee to their neighbouring countries, Palestinians are stuck with a ‘no detour’ sign. As this showdown between David and Goliath continues, in Pakistan, some have unintentionally embraced the western proverb of the “Three Wise Monkeys” (not to be mixed with the Buddhist one) – the utter display of morality should be confined to only Pakistanis, the bereaved will be grieved as long as they are within our territory.

The world is brewing with conflicts, but rather than comparing the extensiveness of others’ miseries with ours, we should, for the sake of humanity, show resentment towards all those acts that are regarded as reprehensible.

 

Fatima Ansari

Fatima Ansari

A law student and blogger based in Karachi, Pakistan. A Middle East and South Asia observer, who writes on international and domestic politics and culture. She tweets @FatimaAnsari_ (twitter.com/FatimaAnsari_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Humza

    I don’t know of any Pakistani who takes out scrolls to point to any supposed Arab link. In fact most native Pakistanis, Pashtuns, Baluch, Punjabi are only too happy to boast of their tribal or clan link. Even native Sindis are more attached to their land and clans despite being the first place the Arabs settled and conquored in South Asia after the arrival of Muhammad Bin Qasim. Pakistanis may feel sympathy for the Palestinian cause because they wish to see an equitable peace in the Middle East and they may have religious commonality with the Palestinians but I do not know of any Pakistani who supports them because they think they are Arab! I find native Pakistanis prefer to talk about their local family origin, land and tribe. I know one side of my mother’s Pashtun family are far more proud of being linked to Khattaks and Afridis. My school friend was very proud of being a Malik and Bhatti. These races of South Asia are largely Aryan and as many will tell you there is more Aryan blood in Pakistan compared to other races. After all Pakistan was part of the Persian Empire longer than it was part of the Greek Empire, Afghan Kingdom or even the Mughal Empire.Recommend

  • Prof

    “.. we should, for the sake of humanity, show resentment towards all those acts that are regarded as reprehensible.”

    Sure. So where in your article did you condemn the killing of Ahmedis in Pakistan?

    Also, the issue is not just about comparing the scale of miseries, it is about quantifying the utility of ones efforts. Our efforts will actually make a difference if they were exerted for those in our proximity.. IDPs, Ahmedis, Christians, Shias et al. What is the quantifiable benefit of spending/wasting millions on protests for Palestinians?Recommend

  • ahmed41

    “—–Yes, Pakistanis have their nostalgic moments when they assume that they
    are genetically related to the mighty Bedouin tribes of Arabia.—-”

    mythical nostalgia !!!!Recommend

  • Prashant

    “Pakistanis, on the other hand, do not have armed tanks rolling on their streets, targeting areas with imprecision nor do they have soldiers thumping on their doors, relentlessly dragging out individuals from each family. Pakistan is a sovereign nation, with an established leadership.”

    Who is denying that and do you really need to compare Pakistan with Palestine after 68 years since the creation of Pakistan?Recommend

  • Pakistani nationalist

    I empathize with the Palestinians and support their cause but us Pakistanis should mind our own business, we’re our people and we’re the heirs of the Gandhara and Indus valley civilization at the crossroads of the Indic and Iranic worlds…Recommend

  • SHS

    Undeniably, what is happening in Gaza is a tragedy of great proportion, and all those who rally for justice and humanity identify with the Palestinian struggle. However, the author glosses over what is really the central issue here: preferential outcries. Friday sermons, print/broadcast/social media, blogospheres, twitterrati, and armchair activists have all been (rightfully) consumed with condemning what is happening in Palestine but have been near silent on the tens of thousands of Muslims who have been killed, butchered, beheaded, raped, and burnt alive by their fellow Muslim brethren in Syria and Iraq (just to take two recent examples). This only further cements the widespread belief that Muslims lack the moral courage and intellectual honesty to be even handed in their criticisms. It would do us a whole lot of good if we climbed out from under the conspiracy theory blankets that seem to enshroud us all, be introspective, and take ownership of our problems. We must value the sanctity of human life — no matter what creed or faith it may be, and be quick to unconditionally condemn injustice in whatever shape or form it may appear. Only then will we be able to begin to get our own house in order, and equally importantly, find credibility within the international community.Recommend

  • Cosmo

    Where is south asia in the article?!!Recommend

  • Udaya Bose

    I don’t see why that should be called a “South Asian Complex’. South Asian has nothing to do with this. This is rather a case of wondering whether it is “Muddaee chust gavah sust ”

    What are the Arabs themselves doing about it? Can they present a united front? Or are they going to keep playing their own games of one-upmanship? Should the world fight their battles for them?
    This is not to say that there is any justification at all for Israel’s behaviour. But you have to win friends.Recommend

  • Sami

    Do you know When First Israelis came in the Palestinian regions then it was late 1800s and Palestinians sold their lands at a good price but somehow everyone forgot about it. Also somehow you are confused that what role Pakistanis can actually play in any conflict. Just visit some Arabian country and see how much respect any Pakistani have and they dont want us to be a Thaikaidaar in Arab conflict at all.
    Interestingly selective Empathy is evident in your writing as there is a complete silence on the issue of ISIS, Boko Haram, Chinese ban on Muslim festivals and Beards and Syrian turmoil.Recommend

  • deep

    “do not have armed tanks rolling on their streets, targeting areas with imprecision nor do they have soldiers thumping on their doors, relentlessly dragging out individuals from each family. ” – have you checked this with a person from Balochistan or waziristan?Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    South Asia is the wrong word to use. It’s the Indian subcontinent.

    You claim to belong to this region, but don’t like to involve a country which is 80% of this “South Asia”.

    If you take India out of the equation, SAARC countries are just a bunch of countries who have nothing in common with each other.

    Call it what it is, the Indian subcontinent. Recommend

  • Realitycheck

    “Yes, Pakistanis have their nostalgic moments when they assume that they are genetically related to the mighty Bedouin tribes of Arabia.”

    No, and nothing mighty about the bedouin tribes of Arabia. Real ancestors of many Pakistanis include ancient central Asian tribes /Indo-Scythians/Kushans etc who did more than the bedouins, Porus and many others including much later invaders, Mughals, Turkic tribes who were significantly more fierce and mighty than any bedouin tribesmen.Recommend

  • ajeet

    Are we going through the ” we belong to Arabia and our mother tongue is Arabic” complex?Recommend

  • Abyss

    Btw, not too far away from Gaza & Syria, “exists” another territory called Iraq, where ISIS is running it’s own agenda, I don’t see any outcry about that either. Oh Yes! just remembered, those people are children of lesser gods, of those gods who can not “protect” its followers.Recommend

  • http://delurk.wordpress.com/ Geekay

    Ok so you grieve with Palestinians on street of Pakistan. Does it put any pressure on US or Israel. Yes, it can take away from the realities any Pakistani face. Neither pak has the deep pockets of Saudi Arab or of Iran, so why should anyone groane when these two Islamic country choose not to whimper.Recommend

  • Hamza

    There is a person who stays quiet when something tragic happens in Pakistan but goes out of his mind to yell and protest when Gaza gets bombed. What is that if not hypocrisy?

    Yes, I love Pakistan and care about it!
    No, I won’t care about Gaza, Iraq or Syria until my own country is stable!
    Yes, I have the South Asian ComplexRecommend

  • stevenson

    What South Asian complex? A lot of people all over the world can sympathize with suffering regardless of their background. Pakistan needs to have good relations with Arab nations and Israel too. They are both Semitic countries so how can we hate either on the basis of race when Israelis and Arabs have identical DNA whereas Pakistanis are most Aryan, especially in North of Pakistan where people have more Aryan genes which puts us closer to Europeans.Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Pakistanis have become Soud Ass-ians because they do not want to be Indian Subcontinental. They bend over to kiss the land which is green and fertile but in their mind they wish it was arid desert of Arabia.Recommend

  • Saqib Alam

    I am truly trying to understand what you are saying becuase here in the UK over 500 UK muslims are said to be fighting in Syria. Only today I read about a UK Pakistani who got killed fighting in Syria. I think we have an Arab complex if you ask me.Recommend

  • BlackJack

    Quote: We believe that being non-Arabs, we should completely abstain from intervening in foreign affairs.
    Reply: On the contrary, Arabs are conspicuously silent, especially in comparison to wannabe Arabs – why do you think that is so? Also didn’t understand these deep musings on genealogy at all – Indo-Persian ethnicity, ha! The Indian subcontinent and Iran are both comprised of several ethnic groups, none of which has this amazing souped-up name. Indo-Iranian is a language group, not an ethnicity. Here is a list (see below) that gives you the Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a percentage per ethnic group across several countries – you can be suitably amazed to see the wide range in Pakistan across regions and groups, and compare it with Iran, Afghanistan, and India. Note – not for the faint-hearted who believe they came over on the MbQ Mayflower.

    ET – pls allow – link to Wiki piece on Haplogroup R1a across countries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_R1a_frequency_by_populationRecommend

  • Sane

    Terminologies and boundaries are not changed as per wish and whims. This shall remain South Asia. There is one thing common in three countries i.e. Islam.Recommend

  • Guest

    It seems that most of you didn’t actually understand the basis of my piece, it is full of sarcasm. I clearly said to stop comparing deaths or miseries, and condemn every atrocity that is considered reprehensible, yet people continue to list out adversaries in their comments. I mentioned Syria and Iraq, not in depth because the article is primarily based on Palestine and how Pakistanis have reacted towards the conflict. When I said that “Yes, Pakistanis have their nostalgic moments when they assume that they are genetically related to the mighty Bedouin tribes of Arabia.”
    Again, sarcasm. Plus, I am not referring to the entire Pakistani populous, but no doubt there are Pakistanis who make such assumptions.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    If commonality of Religion is more important, then Pakistan is an Arab state, not part of South Asia, where Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka have not much to do with Arabic cultures.

    I don’t understand why Pakistan wants to be part of South Asia in the first place, is you think Islam is the main criteria.Recommend

  • Maria

    Yes good point. The only people in Pakistan who pretend to have Arab links or origins are mostly those who migrated from India. I notice that most Indian Muslims like to point to a supposed link with Tabriz, Arabia, Iran or outside of South Asia instead of the Indian races around them. Pakistanis don’t do that even though their blood is more mixed and probably has more genetic input from neighboring lands. I have a friend in Karachi whose family is originally from Hyderbad Deccan in South India but he insists his ancestors are Arabs instead of Telagus even though he looks like other Telagu people in India. Nothing is mighty about the Bedouin tribes who were trounced by almost everyone they came in contact with and now rely on outsiders for defense.Recommend

  • Oats

    I think you need to have a better grasp of sarcasm! Your article hardly comes across as a piece of satire and my first language is English. I am sure most Pakistanis condemn the senseless loss of life in trouble spots all over the world.Recommend

  • Solomon2

    “The world is brewing with conflicts, but rather than comparing the extensiveness of others’ miseries with ours, we should, for the sake of humanity, show resentment towards all those acts that are regarded as reprehensible.”

    It’s not enough, Ms. Ansari. To set Pakistan on a course based on morality and backed by reason you actually have to apply your prescription. And that means siding with Israel and opposing Hamas and others who are out to commit genocide to destroy the State of Israel. Because that way you get the benefits all at once, in a single package, without having to equivocate and prevaricate further.
    I pointed this out to Pakistani diplomats decades ago but they did not consider it their mission to inform their fellow Pakistanis but the duty of their political leaders. Good luck!Recommend

  • Fatima Ansari

    It’s not a satirical piece, and I live in Pakistan. And regarding the Palestine/Israel issue, many Pakistanis have conflicting views. As you can see from the comments.Recommend

  • Hueshang Ansari

    Mostly the Punjabis and Pathans are descended from Sikhs and Jat Hindus.You should read Sir Richard Burton’s book…Sindh
    And as we all know, Christians from FATA or .K-P…that’s Dalits for you.Recommend

  • Gratgy

    “Pakistanis, on the other hand, do not have armed tanks rolling on their streets, targeting areas with imprecision nor do they have soldiers thumping on their doors, relentlessly dragging out individuals from each family.”

    Does North Waziristan count?Recommend

  • Grace

    Islam in Punjab is over 1000 years old. Look at the Muslim shrines in Multan for example. Sikh religion is hardly 400 years old so is it possible for Pathans and Punjabis to come from Sikhs? You need to reread the book by Richard Burton.-Jats are said to come from Scythian invaders who came long after Hindusm was established. They were integrated into Vedic civilization but they came from Central much later.Recommend

  • Oats

    Perhaps you need to understand the nuances associated with sarcasm and satire because they do overlap; It has not only to do with rhetoric and a tone of voice but also intent. I think this is the problem when people from developing countries use English as a medium of communication with understanding the language.Recommend

  • sterry

    The truth is that Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule live much better than most Arabs in neighboring countries. They have access to water, sanitation, health care and education that they never would have had before. Still that doesn’t justify taking their land or victimizing them.Recommend

  • Fatima Ansari

    If you lived in Pakistan, you would know what I mean.Recommend

  • Sikh Scythian

    Yeah right, majority of northern Pakistan is dard people, not genetically even close to you people of europe, you’re genetically closer to an Arab than a person of northern Pakistan, we’re haplogroup L which is indigenous to Pakistan, we aren’t Aryan people at all.Recommend